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Environmental Benefits of Used Shipping Containers

It is well documented that shipping containers are durable, weather resistant, and transportable, giving them impressive versatility. However, did you know that shipping containers are being utilized by different groups to help the environment?

A Short Shipping Container History Re-cap

Shipping containers were first developed by Malcolm McLean and Keith Tantlinger in 1955, revolutionizing the way goods are transported throughout the world. In the modern era, shipping containers are being utilized by so many people and groups for purposes other than their standard one largely because these containers are some of the most durable modular structures in existence.

The containers are built to carry cargo for extended time periods, but following their use for this purpose they can be altered and retrofitted to meet the needs of a variety of additional tasks. Some people in the industry call re-using shipping containers – container architecture, or cargotecture.

Shipping Container Homes

One key way shipping containers are benefitting the environment can be found in their recent usage for housing. The first patent for converting shipping containers into habitable spaces was initially filed by Phillip C. Clark back in 1987, but it’s taken a couple of decades for the rest of the world to catch up to his insight.


Some of the ways modern shipping container homes are helping the environment include:

  • Shipping container homes are essentially recyclables in and of themselves, significantly reducing the need for construction materials and shrinking homeowners’ ecological footprint.
  • Solar panels and insulation can boost these homes’ eco-friendliness, and due to their simple design, such aspects can be added quite easily. The flat roofs of the containers make them particularly ideal for solar panels.
  • Tiny houses constructed out of shipping containers can save homeowners significantly when it comes to lighting costs, as an average home has 45 lightbulbs consuming 639 kWh per year vs. a tiny home with an average of just 6 lightbulbs consuming 85.2 kWh per year.
  • Total energy consumption and costs can be significantly reduced as well. Total electricity usage can be as low as 914 kWh per year vs. an average of 12,773 kWh per year for a standard home, with heating and cooling requiring as little as 844 pounds of CO2 per year vs. an average of 12,000 pounds for a standard home.

Making A Shipping Container Environmentally Friendly on the Inside Too

In addition to using a more eco-friendly and sustainable shipping container for your building, you can also use environmentally conscious products on the interior. Here are a few examples of how to accomplish this:

  • Low-E Glass Windows: Keeps the heat inside by reducing the amount of heat lost through your windows.
  • Spray Foam Insulation: Provides optimal energy performance with an air-tight seal for interior temperature retention and gives credit to “Performance of Energy Star Home”.
  • Vinyl Wrapped Gyproc Walls: The Gyproc portion is made of 100% recycled paper.
  • Sheet Vinyl Flooring: Low VOC, “Floor Score” Certified flooring uses up to 75% natural raw material in manufacturing and is low maintenance, which means little to no cleaning chemicals are needed. This flooring also has a recycling program.
  • Rubber Baseboards: Low VOC, “Floor Score” Certified, up to 43% natural raw material used in manufacturing, and has a recycling program.
  • Plumbing: Using faucets and toilets that are “Water Sense” Certified for water efficiency and conservation is an option.
  • Cooling: Energy Star® compliant cooling units.
  • Lighting: LED lighting options and fluorescent lighting is better than incandescent.

If you’re thinking about converting a shipping container into a new home, business, office or storage unit, ContainerOne is here to help you find the right shipping container. To see our growing product line and creative ideas, visit us at Containerone.net.